The flavor of the week is back! Introducing the second most prolific plant in my garden (next to weeds)…cucumber!

This was the healthiest plant of the three. Had to push it back from the stone walkway using tomato cages and a block of wood.

Moved the vine from the ground onto the brick wall so it won’t fall prey to the weed whacker again.

Spikes on some cultivars provide a formidable defense against hungry predators…unless you’re wearing gloves!

These cucumbers, called “Straight 8,” are ready to pick when they’re about 8″ long. They’re crisp and have big seeds, but are so fleshy that I just gouge the seeds out and still have plenty of cucumber left. I eat them with my fruit salads, with tofu soaked in shoyu and ginger, and pickled some in Korean gochujang hot sauce for a lazy kimchee recipe.

But one of my favorite ways to eat cucumber was introduced by my father-in-law a few years ago. He would make grilled chicken with this delicious, creamy, garlicky tzatziki sauce. I had the hardest time pronouncing it but an easy time eating it! In addition to the incredibly creamy texture, the fresh garlic and lemon adds a delicious mouthwatering savoryness that can be eaten guilt-free: zero fat calories, low in sugar, and tons of protein!

I ate twice this much tzatziki, goes well with everything on my plate!

It’s another way to enjoy yogurt and a solution to getting  rid of all those extra cucumbers lying around. I just might have to let my in-laws give this a try…and maybe get zwei daumen nach oben!

Easy Tzatziki
serve with grilled chicken, raw veggies, raw zucchini noodles, or use as a veggie sandwich spread.

Ingredients:

1 large garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt or 1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon dried dill
juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
1 cucumber
1 1/2 cup Greek-style nonfat yogurt

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine garlic, salt, and dill. Stir in yogurt, lemon juice and zest. In another bowl or on a cutting board, using a box grater shred cucumber using large grater holes. Grabbing a handful of shredded cucumber, squeeze out excess liquid, reserving for later use (or drink it down!) Add squeezed & shredded cucumber to yogurt, stir to combine. Repeat with remaining shredded cucumber. Adjust seasonings to taste, store in refrigerator covered with plastic wrap until ready to serve. Makes about 2 cups.

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I’m a day late and a dollar short with the flavor of the week but here it is…zucchini! Granted it’s not really a flavor and not used to describe anything except actual zucchini, but our late-blooming zucchini plants have been producing and I thought I’d share some recipes this week to help get rid of any extra harvests from your garden.

It all starts here: the male flowers grow on skinny stems (left, yellow flower) while the female flower grows on a shorter mini-zucchini (right of male yellow flower.)

A couple of developing zucchini with their flowers closed.

Zucchini has never been my favorite, especially when served as enormous, unappetizing chunks in stir-frys or pasta primavera (it’s like cutting half a cabbage and asking everyone to dig in!) One way I did enjoy it was when my mother would make panko-crusted sticks of zucchini, deep fry it and serve it up with a mayo-shoyu dipping sauce on the side…delicious! But what am I doing with these zucchini plants if I don’t like to eat zucchini? Well, the initial idea was to mainly eat the flowers tempura-style, but I’ve been on a healthier-kick lately so no deep frying in the kitchen, at least for now. But there’s another way to enjoy zucchini on a healthier level, and that’s by making them into noodles!

Zucchini noodles are a great way to use up any extras you have lying around and, like any vegetable, is an extremely healthy addition to your diet. One large zucchini (about 3/4 pounds) has only 52 calories and is packed with fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Folate, and B6, to name a few. Imagine replacing your regular pasta with nutritious zucchini noodles. Not only do you get more nutrients, but you save over 200 calories per meal!!!

Ready for a step-by-step on making zucchini noodles?

If you don’t have a vegetable spiral slicer, you can achieve similar results with a sharp vegetable peeler and a good knife. First, remove the skin from the zucchini. Use the vegetable peeler to peel of wide slices of zucchini, rotating after every two “peels”:

Rotate and slice until you reach the seeds. Stack two or three zucchini slices and carefully slice them into thinner noodle-like strands.

Use these zucchini noodles in place of regular pasta, just add them to your sauce and cook them gently for about 3 minutes to heat through. Enjoy an almost raw Zucchini Salad with Peanut Satay Sauce, or add a handful to your favorite chicken soup.

What’s your favorite healthy way to enjoy zucchini?

Happy Wednesday! Hope everyone is staying fit and healthy as we continue with “Fun, Food and Fitness” sponsored by the very fit Jenn at Peas and Crayons!

Most of my meals could be considered on the healthy side, but there’s always room for improvement. I tried increasing my raw food consumption, but in effect I also increased calorie intake by eating too many nuts and soaked grain products! So right now I’m trying to figure out what are some good sources of lean (uncooked) protein. Well, yogurt has been working out so far, so I’m going to stick with that. Most other raw sources are high in fat, so if any one has suggestions, please let me know!

The other morning I was very, very tired, even though I slept earlier than usual (because  I was so tired!)  I didn’t do my morning exercise routine, but this morning I felt better so did my exercises, tried doing a hill run (puff, puff!) and came back to a watermelon lassi for breakfast:

Added 1/2 scoop vanilla protein powder and juice from 1/4 lime (I like it tart.) A few raspberries made it look pretty.

Lunch was a big bowl of cold watermelon soup…with a twist! I am saving the recipe for Saturday’s Recipe Redux, but I can tell you it was just what I needed for that hot, humid day. I can wait to share the recipe, but I can’t wait to share a teeny portion of my lunch:

green stuff??

Come back on Saturday to view the recipe and the rest of the photo!

I let my husband try some of the watermelon soup as a starter for dinner. He couldn’t eat/drink the whole bowl, I think the flavors were too strong? Green? Piquant? As our main course I made panko-crusted tuna tofu patties: 2 cans water-packed tuna, 1/2 cup medium or firm tofu (more, if you like,) 1 tablespoon white miso paste, 1 teaspoon Spike seasoning, 1/4 cup chopped onion, 1/2 cup shredded carrrots and a  dash of pepper. Squish tofu and tuna together with your hand, mixing well. Stir in rest of the ingredients. Divide into 8 balls, smash lightly to make patties (don’t make too flat, they’ll fall apart.) Coat in mixture of 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon cornstarch. Coat with panko, crushed corn flakes or crushed corn chips. Fry in hot oil on medium heat until browned on both sides. Serve on buns, with rice, or on a salad:

You can see the big shreds of carrot in the mashed patty on the bottom and the delicious crispy panko coating on the top patty.

My friend Suzi asked me about watermelon sorbets, which I never made before (no ice cream machine.) I tried making one this morning, but since I didn’t add a lot of sugar, the texture just wasn’t the same. Xanthan gum helped to thicken it up and the vodka kept it from turning into a bowl-shaped block of ice, so rather than forcing it to become something else, I just ended up calling it a slushie.

It may look a bit underwhelming, but I urge you to try this recipe. The addition of cayenne and salt amplifies the lime and rounds out the sweet-sour-salty combination nicely. It’s not spicy and if you want to share with kids, simply omit the vodka.

Refreshing Watermelon Slushie
makes about 12 ounces 

1 1/2 cups mashed watermelon, about 2 cups chopped
zest and juice of 1/2 lime (zest first then cut lime in half)
1 tablespoon natural sweetener such as honey or agave (I used the hollowed-out lime rind as my ‘measuring cup’)
1 tablespoon vodka (used the same ‘measuring cup’ as above)
dash of cayenne
incredibly tiny pinch of salt
1/8 teaspoon xanthan gum (helps thicken it up)

Directions:

Add all ingredients to a blender and mix on low speed until combined. Pour into a shallow bowl or dish and freeze for 1 hour. Stir, breaking up frozen chunks around the edges, and freeze for 2 hours more for slushy consistency.

The lime makes it refreshing, but cayenne and salt adds another dimension to this refreshing, low-sugar version of a classic summertime treat.

Going back to what I was talking about earlier in the post: what are some good sources of protein that are low in fat? How about veggie sources? How do you like to prepare them? I’m looking for more sources, so any suggestions would be most helpful!

If ever there was a fruit that says picnics, barbecues, and summertime fun all in one word, then that would be our Flavor of the Week…watermelon!

Even kitties need some refreshment! Image source: http://aboutalex.blogspot.com

There’s nothing like chewing into a big, fat slice of this summertime treat, both hands holding a two-inch thick piece with juices running down your arms as you challenge your sister to see who can spit seeds the farthest across the driveway.

There’s nothing like a refreshing slice on a hot summer day, but if you care to enjoy this vitamin-rich fruit, try it in a smoothie for a light and refreshing breakfast or snack (if you like pineapple smoothies, here is last week’s post with a pretty pineapple lassi photo.)

Watermelon lassi with protein powder boost

Watermelon Lassi – Combine 6oz. Greek-style nonfat yogurt and 2 cups watermelon chunks in a blender. Boost: add 1/3 scoop vanilla protein powder. Makes 20 ounces of deliciousness with approximately 210 calories and zero fat.

For something more substantial, just add granola and a handful of blueberries:

Watermelon-Berry Breakfast Bowl – In a cereal bowl, add 6 oz nonfat yogurt, 1/2 cup chopped watermelon and 1/4 cup fresh blueberries. Garnish with a tablespoon more of yogurt and top with a sprinkle of granola and chopped mint.

In the following weeks you will see more posts of healthier meals and fewer baked goodies. I know, it makes me a little sad to not enjoy the comforts of homemade cakes and cookies for the time being, but I am trying out a new exercise and meal plan to get stronger, have more energy and cut out extra fat in my diet as much as possible. It will be a nice change, and a challenge for me physically as I try out new exercises, but that’s what makes it more fun!

Here’s an excerpt from the Ayurvedic cookbook, Eat, Taste, Heal. In the chapter “Food as Medicine,” where they talk about the  Essential Ingredients for Health. It’s motivating and inspiring, and reminds us of our uniqueness:

Exercise Your Body and Mind. Physical activity keeps the inner motors of the body running with ease. Through exercising in accordance wit your underlying make-up, you have the ability to keep your body young and vibrant…in order to keep your mind clear and bright, also remember to exercise (your) inner talents and passions…if you regularly exercise your body and mind, you will help exorcise all imbalances and illness.”

Have a great week, everyone!

Happy Wednesday  everyone! Hope summer has been treating you well. It’s been hot and dry, and our poor lawn would love a good shower. On the upside: no bug bites for five whole days!

I’m combining my usual Flavor of the Week I normally post on Mondays with Wednesday’s WIAW sponsored by the wonderful Jenn at Peas and Crayons, so the Flavor of the Week is…PINEAPPLE!

There’s lots of ways to enjoy this bromelian beauty, and not just in fruit salads or pina coladas. Today I’ll be sharing a delicious and refreshing drink that not only helps beat the summer heat, but aids in digestion and supplies your body with lots of nutrients including calcium, protein, and Vitamin C.

Today I had a rather healthy appetite, so after my morning exercise I started the day with a pretty good breakfast:

Coffee, fried egg, toast, and fruit salad with a little chopped tomato sprinkled with a tiny pinch of salt (try it, it’s good!)

Here’s a close-up of the fruit salad, see the tomatoes? And tiny grains of salt on the grapes? Tasty!

Just a few pieces of fruit chopped up makes a great fruit salad. Add some chopped tomato and a teeny pinch of salt and you made it even better!

I was hungry sooner than I thought (2 1/2 hours later.) Lunch was leftover fish with orange-shoyu sauce with green beans and rice:

Fish with orange-shoyu sauce, green beans, rice & apple slices with Celestial Seasonings Blueberry Breeze tea.

Later on I was STILL hungry so snacked on some blue corn chips and a nice, big medjool date (no photo.)

Work has been a bit hectic the past few days, and I didn’t feel like cooking but wanted some good comfort food. My husband and I checked out The Hitchin’ Post Restaurant, just a few miles from where we are. Everything on the menu sounded great, but I decided on their Hitchin’ Post favorite, Seafood Dijon (sp?). It was served hot n’ fresh from the oven with the smell of buttery, garlicky goodness wafting up from the dish:

Seafood in a butter-garlic-wine sauce topped with a Parmesan crust and baked ’till bubbly!

If you can imagine two plump scallops the size of marshmallows, two pieces of succulent shrimp, tender flaky pieces of halibut and chunks of sweet crab meat simmered in a butter-garlic-wine sauce…that is what melted my socks off at dinner! :) It was such a treat, and I savored every bite. But after such a heavy meal, I needed something to help ease my stomach and satisfy my sweet tooth. We didn’t order dessert, but I came home and made something that would be the perfect finish: pineapple lassi.

Pineapple is one of my favorite fruits, and my Uncle Kenneth (the one who grows coffee) grows white pineapple that is so incredibly sweet, you’d think it was infused with sugar. But no matter what variety you have on hand, all pineapples contain an enzyme, bromelian, that helps with digestion by breaking down proteins in your gut. Pairing that with the beneficial bacteria found in dairy yogurt and you’ve got a delicious digestive aid.

Quick, easy and refreshing Pineapple Lassi.

Pineapple Lassi

Ingredients:

6 oz plain nonfat yogurt with active cultures
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh pineapple, core removed
1/4 cup fresh chopped orange, about 3-4 segments (optional)
1 teaspoon orange-agave syrup or regular agave syrup or honey
1/4 cup water (optional)

Directions:

Put everything except water in a blender and blend on medium to medium-high until smooth. Add water to thin, if needed. Add more syrup to taste. Garnish with fruit and mint (that one in the middle is pineapple mint!) Makes about 18 ounces.

Tasty and refreshing, this pineapple lassi is chock-full of vitamins and minerals.

What’s your favorite drink to beat the summer heat?

Hi, everyone! My apologies for not having the Flavor of the Week post ready today. My husband was busy updating the plumbing and electrical in the kitchen, and I was kind of helping:

Exposing the pipes to rerun water lines and electrical to sink, porch and stove (he had to replace the plug on that, too!)

He cut through the floorboards to rerun the water line to the kitchen, then cut a hole in the wall to run it out to the porch for our washer and dryer (currently in the kitchen by the front door.)

The pipes were weird: they ran under the floor, then jumped up a few inches to run above the floor (bottom center.) The fridge was propped up on 1×2’s to accommodate for this unusual plumbing design.

The other side of the kitchen sink: the bottom of the wall was removed to run the water and electrical for the washer & dryer. The white box is where the shut off valves will be.

Future location of our washer and dryer, back left corner.

Dinner from the Doctor! My husband said it’s like the Kraft brand in Germany. :)

It’s not burnt, we like our cheese well-done! It wasn’t bad for a frozen thin-crust pizza, but since it was a wheat crust, my belly inflated like a party balloon. Oh well, at least it was the end of the day!

My husband is slowly working on home improvement projects here and there, and I can’t wait for the kitchen to be updated! We’ll be doing some painting and installing new floors in the next few weeks, so I’ll keep you posted on that.

I know some of you are working on home renovations as well, how’s it coming along? Or if you are in the process of moving, what are your plans for decorating your new home? What’s your favorite room to decorate? (it’s the kitchen, right?)

In the meantime, I’ll post the Flavor of the Week by Wednesday, so stay tuned!

Don’t these oranges look delicious? (Image source: http://www.growcitrus.com)

Yes, it’s the old knock-knock joke that could go on and on until you decide to say ‘orange’! One of my favorites to tell, but not to listen to. ;)

It’s been a couple years since I bought oranges, much less ate them. When I started following the Blood Type Diet, there were some fruits that I was supposed to avoid: mango, cantaloupe, papaya, tomatoes, and oranges, for example. I did well on that diet, and some foods I could easily do without…like oranges.

But it wasn’t until last week when I made a batch of  raw Orange Cranberry Oatmeal scones* that I felt like I had to incorporate this fruit into my diet once again. It wasn’t the flavor of these scones that did it (which were awesome, btw) but the fragrant, vibrant, juicyness of the fruit when you slice it, and especially when you zest it. The navel oranges I got were the size of grapefruits, and were incredibly sweet and juicy. Each of these oranges would yield 8 ounces of fresh-squeezed juice, plus some nice bits of pulp that I like to chew on.

Long after eating the scones, the fresh orange taste was still stuck in my head and I needed more of an orange fix. I decided to modify my wheat-free carrot-apple-ginger cake into an orange date cake. This being the first orange cake I made, I think it was a success! After ten minutes in the oven, the kitchen already smelled phenomenal. The taste and aroma from the crazy amount of orange zest made this an incredibly fragrant cake (if our neighbors lived any closer, their noses would be pressing up against my windows!) It’s a moist cake, heavier than a regular wheat flour cake, and I felt that the coconut oil had a more neutral taste than vegetable oil. I used only 1 cup of sugar compared to 2 cups normally called for in a cake recipe, but you won’t miss it. The dates, orange juice and apples give it more than enough sweetness.

*from Judita Wignall’s Going Raw cookbook

This not-too sweet orange date cake is great for breakfast, at home or on the go.

Orange Date Cake
It’s important that you use fresh orange zest and fresh orange juice! 

7 medjool dates, pitted, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
6 ounces freshly squeezed orange juice, with pulp
zest from 2 extra-large navel oranges (about 1/4 cup)
2 cups spelt flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup brown sugar
2 1/2 cups shredded carrots
3/4 cup peeled, cored, finely chopped apple
1/4 cup orange zest (from 2 jumbo navel oranges)
4 eggs
1/2 cup coconut oil
additional zest for garnish

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Soak the dates in orange juice for 15-2o minutes (you can also soak it overnight in the fridge)

In a large mixing bowl (I use my standing mixer bowl,) combine spelt flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt & brown sugar. Stir in shredded carrots and orange zest, breaking apart clumps with your fingers.

Make a well in the center of your flour mix. Add eggs and coconut oil, beating well then slowly incorporating flour. Stir in date and orange juice.

Use the following baking times, or bake until toothpick inserted comes out clean

bundt pan: 33-35 minutes
9″ cake pan: 33-35 minutes
paper-lined muffin tins: 18 minutes
mini bundt cake pan (cake pictured below): 25 minutes

Fresh oranges make all the difference.